GIRL #7, 2004

Important Australian + International Fine Art
30 November 2011


born 1972
GIRL #7, 2004

synthetic polymer paint, watercolour, gouache and ink on polyester canvas

120.0 x 86.0 cm

signed lower right: del kathryn barton
signed, dated and titled verso: girl #7 /del kathryn barton 2004

$38,000 - 48,000

Ray Hughes Gallery, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney


Del Kathryn Barton, Girl, Ray Hughes Gallery, Sydney, 2004, cat. 7

Catalogue text

The paintings of Del Kathryn Barton have long woven the elements of decoration and adornment with foliage, birds and animals as a complex metaphor of ambiguous desire and eroticism. Seated and semi nude, Girl #7 2004 is adorned with merely a fabric pelt around her décolletage and a skirt of layered and spotted fragments. It is one of a series of portraits exhibited in that year simply titled 'Girl'. Each work explores the stereotypical notion of what it means to be a young girl betwixt childhood and womanhood juxtaposed with an inner and somewhat darker world of the subconscious. These girls and their accoutrement display at once innocence and eroticism, beauty and ugliness, cuteness and savagery and the domesticated and the feral. Everything in Girl #7 is on the cusp of transformation or mutation, somewhat like a character from Grimms' Fairy Tales. She stares at the viewer with blackened eyes, as though they are either scratched out or as armour against any close inspection of her soul. In her lap sits a black rabbit delicately poised either ready to scamper away in fear or dig its claws into the soft flesh of the sitter's lap. The birds poised on the leaves of an acanthas spinosus seem ready to menace their prey, either rabbit or girl or perhaps simply fly away. Girl #7 is a dark beauty who keeps dark pets as company.

The sexuality of the portrait is overtly evident from the acanthus fronds sprouting out from behind the rabbit, an animal which has long symbolised fertility in art in many cultures. The leaves appear like a metaphor for the female reproductive system, their stems as a fallopian tube and the leaves as her ovaries. Yet the acanthus leaf structure is spiked and forked by nature and barely hospitable presenting yet another edge to an otherwise soft and human analogy. The botanic has long served as lavish adornment in Barton's work and the choice of acanthus leaves harks back to its classical decorative uses in Greco Roman architecture. More significantly in Girl #7 it provides an indelible link between woman and nature just as the rabbit and birds place her in the entire menagerie of the animal kingdom. So intrinsic is the theme of the 'wild' in Barton's work, the monumental painting Come of things 2010 was included in the Art Gallery of New South Wales exhibition Wilderness of that year and was acquired for the Gallery's permanent collection.